Why the Haves Fear Deregulation

Add Georgia and potentially the SEC to the list of schools that will oppose some of the key proposals in the NCAA’s first package of deregulation proposals. Unlike the Big Ten’s objections, Georgia’s seem to come from its athletic director Greg McGarity, who saw his coaches eyeing the new rules like sharks before a feeding frenzy:

“It was an immediate red flag,” he said. “We now have about 35 items on the list of what the coaches would love to do. Think about if we gave them a few months to come up with things.”

On the wish list were 200-page, four-color brochures. Fathead posters made in the likenesses of recruits and stuffed inside media guides. Videos of a recruit in a Georgia uniform. Four or five extra staff members devoted to recruiting.

But why would Georgia, currently running a surplus in their athletic department, fear that spending? An SEC school with some room in the budget ought to welcome a loosening of the reins right? The next quote from McGarity explains why:

“Some school is going to want to get on the high dive with this and go all in and spend and spend,” McGarity said. “It is going to start a round of competition among schools that is going to be limitless.”

The problem is not that this will be a limitless round of competition. The problem is that there are already at least two or three other limitless competitions continuing with no end in sight. On top of arms races over facilities and coaching salaries that has begun to creep into administrative areas like academics and compliance, recruiting deregulation will set off another arms race.

The reason the haves are objecting is that the more arms races there are, the lower the ability of the haves to win the ones that matter over the have nots. If Georgia’s coaches burn a budget surplus over 400-page media guides and extra staff that do nothing but watch recruiting film and call juniors, it hampers their ability to poach a mid-major’s coach or retain assistants.

Meanwhile, it offers an opportunity for the have nots and especially the middle class of college athletics to get smart and spend more wisely. They can use the looser recruiting rules to get the most out of what they have and save money to spend on more important things. That’s exactly the attitude taken in the New York Times piece by Kansas State athletic director John Currie:

“If we lose out on somebody because our media guide was only 200 pages and somebody else’s was 400 pages, then so be it. I don’t think every school is going to add 25 new quality control coaches and recruiting coaches, because adding 25 new personalities to your building is not necessarily going to make you better.”

Recruiting deregulation looked like it was going to pit the haves vs. the have nots, and that will be the case. Just not on the sides we thought. Then again, we should have been able to predict that as well. Back in 2009–10, the Pac–10 (in what seems like a different universe now) proposed a number of cost cutting ideas, including eliminating foreign tours, cutting back on nonchampionship segment competition, and prohibiting teams (especially football teams) from staying in a hotel the night before a home game.

The attitude of many smaller schools and conferences though was to oppose the proposals. The reason was that when trying to compete with a smaller budget against bigger schools, you would rather money be spent on things like hotels before home games rather than on hiring away your coaches or building new locker rooms.

With the Big 10 opposed, the SEC potentially joining them, and the Big 12 and Pac–12 not taking positions yet, just those four conferences could go a long way toward the votes needed to start an override. The question is how many smaller conferences object as well, to proposals that even some of the big boys acknowledge could help them.

Posted on by John Infante
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